The soccer player Ángel Di María appears as the owner of an offshore company in Panama created especially to handle contracts for the exploitation of his image rights. The company is a paper firm, which it used since 2009, months before arriving at Real Madrid, which fulfills the function of being the owner of 100% of the rights.
Di María maintains this partnership to this day while playing for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). Di María already had problems with the Spanish treasury for this company but in his environment they assured that it is declared in France and England. The information comes from the Pandora Papers, the international investigation on tax havens that is based on almost 12 million documents accessed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and shared with Argentine media such as elDiarioAR, the sister newspaper of elDiario.es in Argentina, and published in Spain by laSexta and El País.
The new documents reveal that the soccer player, who was key in the conquest of the last Copa América, managed at least 9.5 million dollars between 2013 and 2017, through the Panamanian company Sunpex Corporation Inc. With this offshore company, Di María channeled advertising revenue with brands such as Adidas and Coca-Cola, among others, and managed investments in financial assets from a bank account in Switzerland.
In Spain, Sunpex Corporation Inc. has already brought Di María problems. The footballer assumed in 2017 that he had committed a tax offense on Spanish soil for the funds he channeled between 2011 and 2013, which the Football Leaks investigation revealed at that time. As part of the agreement with the Spanish justice, the footballer paid a fine of 2 million euros for the evasion.
According to the judicial investigation, the company was created just before Di María signed his contract with Real Madrid, the club where he landed in 2010. But after the ruling and his departure from the Spanish club, Di María continued to use that contract. structure to sign advertising contracts while he played for Manchester United and after his arrival at PSG in 2015.
“Society has always been declared in England and in France. It is a totally legal strategy ”, they have assured from their surroundings before the consultation of the Argentine team of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
“Sunpex owns all the image rights to Di María. From 2015 to the present, [el jugador] it is subject to income tax in France. That is to say, he pays tax for all this he earns ”, they have clarified from the footballer’s environment.
Why wasn’t Sunpex dissolved? ICIJ asked. From their environment they recognize that it is a tax issue and explain that, in that case, the footballer should be subject to dividend tax. That is, if the soccer player dissolves Sunpex, he should pay more than 20% of the total funds that the offshore has in Panama to directly enter his personal assets as a French tax resident.
In his environment they recalled that the footballer’s house in Paris was raided in 2018 by an investigation into alleged Sunpex tax fraud, which finally ended with a dismissal for the player in the Parisian courts.
The alarms sounded in those months in Panama, when the accusation for evasion in Spain was made public, according to the Pandora Papers documents. The Alemán, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Alcogal) study, which advised the soccer player with a good part of the offshore operation, had identified him as a politically exposed person and had warned in his internal information exchanges: “Angel Fabián Di María used the company to evade taxes ”. From the firm, they have also added the Argentine in a spreadsheet that contained personalities that could cause a high reputational risk to the study.
Alcogal, based in Panama, is a leading offshore provider for politicians and wealthy people in Latin America. “Alcogal adheres to all legal requirements in the provision of corporate services and company formation, in full compliance with all applicable requirements in all the jurisdictions in which we operate,” the firm said in consultation with ICIJ.
Using an offshore company or opening a bank account in a tax haven is not, in itself, an illicit activity. But if the “final beneficiary” of this operation does not declare his money or any other asset to the tax authorities of his country, he may incur the crimes of evasion or laundering, among other criminal figures.
Recommendation from your accountant
Why did Di María go to a tax haven to handle his image rights? The player’s environment explains that it was because of a “recommendation” that his accountant made him in 2009, but that the footballer “did not know that this recommendation was not reasonable for the Spanish authorities”. Sunpex is a paper firm, which has no headquarters or employees, but manages millionaire revenues.
The offshore company, whose sole shareholder is Di María, accumulated in its Credit Suisse accounts (in dollars, euros and pounds sterling) the annual balance of $ 1.5 million for the exploitation of the footballer’s image, according to the documents of the Pandora Papers.
Sunpex was also used to invest in the financial market. In June 2017, the offshore had investments worth 8.5 million dollars, according to the report of its investment portfolio managed by Credit Suisse Bank. Among his acquisitions are Argentine bonds (three different series) for a total of half a million dollars, the investment with the highest yield in his portfolio. It also bet on the purchase of shares in Shell, Electricite de France and Petrobras, among others.
Sunpex’s total assets reached $ 9.5 million at the end of 2016, according to the annual balance sheet that appears between the papers.
Sunpex owns all image rights to Di María. From 2015 to the present, [el jugador] it is subject to income tax in France. That is, you pay tax on all this you earn.
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Since its creation in 2009, Sunpex has owned 100% of the footballer’s image rights. Di María signed a first contract with the offshore on May 6, 2009, when he was playing in Benfica, Portugal. The contract, to which the Argentine ICIJ team had access, details that the player transferred the “world-wide image rights for a period of 15 years” to his own company.
On the same day of its creation, Sunpex outsourced the image rights of the Argentine in favor of a network that already managed other similar businesses. A new contract established that the transfer of rights remained 80% for the Irish company Multisports & Image Management Limited (MIM) and 15% for Polaris Sports Limited. Di María, through Sunpex, kept 5% of the income.
Both MIM Limited and Polaris Sports were part of a tax evasion scheme in which – according to the Spanish courts – other stars of world football participated, like Cristiano Ronaldo and coach José Mourinho, who shared the Real Madrid squad with Di María in those years. Both the players and the coach had Portuguese Jorge Mendes as their representative.
The documents that appear in the Pandora Papers include a contract between Sunpex and Real Madrid, signed on July 8, 2010 – under the legal supervision of two directors of that club – for the transfer of the player’s image rights as part of his work in Spain.
This partnership structure remained in effect until May 2013, when Sunpex canceled the contract with MIM and Polaris. The date coincides with the months in which Di María received an improvement in his salary as a Real Madrid footballer and began to negotiate a contract renewal for the following year, conversations that ultimately failed.
Sunpex and Di María signed in May 2013 a new contract for the transfer of image rights with LMP Bomore BV, a Dutch firm that already had the same task with other footballers, such as the Uruguayan Luis Suárez. The agreement with this firm remained in force even after the departure of Di María from Real Madrid, when he went to Manchester United (England).
Why was the decision made? “LMP Bomore was a company with more capacity to secure image rights agreements. Sunpex did not have any employee ”, they said near the player when asked by ICIJ.
The national team boots
Di María used this new offshore framework for different commercial contracts. In 2014, already as a Manchester United player, he recorded a commercial with his teammate Robin Van Persie for the British beverage brand YOU.C1000 for $ 150,000, they detailed from their environment.
He also recorded another commercial for Coca-Cola, dressed in the clothing of the Argentine national team. and the official logo of the Argentine Football Association in the video. Sunpex approved at its May 2015 assembly a contract with the Urban agency to shoot this commercial, although without detailing the amount of the contract. The offshore accounting books show an invoice for US $ 101,361 sent to Urban (UP Comunicación SA).
Days later, the corporate scheme around Di María’s image would once again register a change. As a result of its new contract with PSG, Sunpex made official in its shareholders’ minutes of August 6, 2015 that the merchandising area of the French club became from that moment on “the exclusive global supplier for Ángel Di María in the development , negotiation and organization of opportunities and activities for the player in relation to the exploitation of his individual image ”.
However, Sunpex retained the authority to sign other contracts. Thus, the Panamanian society was able to renew in August 2017 Di María’s contract with Adidas, the sports brand that sponsors the star.
The accounts analyzed by ICIJ show that the forward received 171,000 dollars from the initial agreement with the sports brand, signed three years earlier. In addition, Sunpex invoiced 128,333 euros in June 2017 for the concept “Adidas image rights”.
The main income of the footballer for wearing Adidas boots is related to matches of the Argentine National Team. That invoice – which the sports brand paid – indicated that Di María should receive $ 71,250 for wearing the Adidas boots during his presentations with the national team. That amount was just the second installment for that concept. The rest, the other 57,000 euros billed, was paid for his appearances in PSG matches.